One of the best and sunniest road trips in the United States is the drive from Miami to Key West, along the Overseas Highway. The trip is doable in a day, but best enjoyed at a leisurely pace, stopping at various attractions and eateries along the way, as well as making the most of your time in both Miami and Key West.
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This guide to driving from Miami to Key West includes practical information you should keep in mind when planning your trip, things to do (and, more importantly, eat!) in both Miami and Key West, as well as the best stops to enjoy along the way.
Things to Know Driving From Miami to Key West
Where is Key West?
Also known as the “Conch Republic,” Key West is the southernmost city in the United States, lying just 90 miles from neighboring Cuba.
Can you get to Key West by car?
The Florida Keys Overseas Highway is 113 miles in length and joins the mainland of Florida to Key West. The direct drive to Key West from Key Largo is approximately 2.5 hours.
How long is the drive from Miami to Key West
Driving from Miami to Key West takes around four hours over the Overseas Highway (Highway 1) and its 42 bridges. The Miami to Key West distance is between 110 and 160 miles, depending on where you start from in Miami.
However, it’s a lot of fun to break up the journey with interesting stops along the way, or even overnight on the various Keys. Therefore the journey can be as long or short as you like, according to your preferences.
Note that if you fly into Miami International Airport (MIA) and rent a car from there, the drive will be 30 minutes shorter than if you fly into and start the drive from Fort Lauderdale (FLL).
Is the drive from Miami to Key West worth it?
Yes, the drive from Miami to Key West Drive is absolutely worth it. It is a stunning drive that you should do at least once in your life.
When to Drive from Miami to Key West
Of course, Florida has gorgeous sunny weather all year, but be aware that the summer months can be uncomfortably humid and early autumn/fall is hurricane season, so extreme and unpredictable weather could disrupt your trip.
Renting a Car to Drive Miami to Key West
The best places to rent cars are at the airports, which makes for a seamless transition from arrival in Miami to your road trip to Key West. Jeeps, sports cars, and convertibles are suggested for “top-down” drives in the sun, best enjoyed with a killer playlist. Check car rental options.
If driving is not your thing then you can always do a Key West day tour from Miami.
Best Stops Along the Way from Miami to Key West
There are endless things to see and do on the drive from Miami to Key West. Below are some ideas for a short itinerary in Miami before your trip, where to stop on your journey south and along the Florida Keys on the Overseas Highway (in order from north to south), as well as what to do in Key West once you arrive there.
If you don’t live in Miami already, you may want to explore a bit of the city before you set off on your ocean highway adventure. Although there are beaches along the keys, they are mostly rocky, so if you’re looking to relax on the sand, then it’s best to do that here. There are so many unique things to do in Miami.
Start at Miami Beach and Ocean Drive, which are great for chilling out and people watching. In the daytime, South Beach residents can be spotted working out along the beachfront; while in the evening, luxury cars roll along Ocean Drive and locals come out to party.
The Little Havana neighborhood is a prime spot for food, bars and clubs, as well as the best place to pick up a Cuban sandwich (baked ham, roasted pork, Swiss cheese, sliced dill pickles and yellow mustard, on Cuban bread) or a Cuban milkshake (also known as a batido). Two of the best known establishments are Sanguich de Miami and Versailles Restaurant.
Other great foodie destinations to try while you’re in Miami include Joe’s Stone Crab, which has been serving Florida stone crab claws since 1913! Garcia’s Seafood Grille & Fish is known for its tasty Mahi-Mahi and grouper sandwiches, while the acclaimed Chef Creole serves Haitian-inspired cuisine, such as fried fish and pikliz (a Haitian pickled vegetable relish).
Robert is Here Fruit Stand (Homestead)
Before the highway starts over the ocean, the road leads down to Homestead; a city-suburb of Miami, sandwiched between Biscayne National Park and Everglades National Park, and best known for its agriculture.
Sample the area’s agricultural offerings at Robert is Here, a fruit stand and farm that has roots extending back to 1959. There’s even a drive-thru for those on the road who just want to pick up some healthy snacks for the trip. The Key lime milkshake is a popular order, though there are plenty of milkshakes, smoothies and other all-natural, fresh products to choose from.
Everglades Alligator Farm (Homestead)
No trip to Florida is complete without a gator encounter, so stop by Everglades Alligator Farm (USD25) – South Florida’s oldest alligator farm – to meet the resident gators, as well as caimans, crocodiles and snakes! You can also take an airboat ride.
Schnebly Redland’s Winery & Brewery (Homestead)
A more mature attraction in Homestead is Schnebly Redland’s Winery & Brewery, the southernmost winery in the United States.
Here, you can spend an afternoon tasting exotic tropical fruit wines (USD20), tour through the picturesque estate (USD16) and learn about the wine making process (USD36 for wine tasting and tour package). There’s also a beer tasting tap room (USD20 for beer tasting) and a farm-to-table restaurant on-site.
Remember to drink responsibility, and not to drink and drive. To break up the journey and ensure you can still enjoy what Schnebly’s has to offer, consider staying overnight in Homestead.
Key Largo Conch House (Key Largo)
The Key Largo Conch House is a homey seafood restaurant with a resident parrot and a lovely garden. Opt for the conch fritters, then wash them down with a Key lime or mango mimosa.
Robbie’s Restaurant (Islamorada)
This waterfront restaurant is known as much for its food as it is for its attractions, including charter fishing, party boats and tarpon feeding. Tarpons are huge game fish native to the tropical waters around the Florida Keys, which can grow up to eight feet in length and 200 pounds in weight!
Buy a bucket of bait from Robbie’s and you can hand-feed these giants of the sea – just mind the teeth! (USD2.25 for admission to the dock, plus USD4 for a bucket of five to eight fish)
The city of Marathon is spread over a group of islands in the middle of the Florida Keys: Knight’s Key, Boot Key, Key Vaca, Fat Deer Key, Long Point Key, Crawl Key, and Grassy Key. It’s also a great place to stay overnight, as there are plenty of attractions in the area. Marathon Key is also known as the heart of the Keys as it is located halfway from Key Largo and Key West.
This is one of the most scenic stretches of the Overseas Highway, so be sure to have your camera ready. There are two bridges: an older one that is now reserved for pedestrians and cyclists, and a new, wider one for vehicles. This is the famous longest bridge in the Kyes at 6.8 miles long. The new bridge was built in the 1980s to replace the old bridge.
At the Turtle Hospital, you can learn about the rescue, rehabilitation, and release of sea turtles, and paying a visit here going towards helping a good conservation cause (USD27). Note that you won’t be able to touch the turtles, but there are opportunities to take cute turtle pics.
Big Pine Kayak Adventures (Big Pine Key)
Run by expert paddler and author Bill Keogh, who wrote the Florida Keys Paddling Guide, Big Pine Kayak Adventures rents kayaks and organises kayaking ecotours, fishing charters, kayak fishing trips, and more. Take to the waves to learn about how crab traps work, or wind through the mangroves to learn about wildlife. (From USD50pp for a three-hour kayaking group tour.)
Now that you’ve arrived at your final port of call, you’ll want to spend at least a couple of days here enjoying the sights, sounds, and sunsets of Key West. The best way to do this is to rent a bike, so you can cycle around where you want to visit.
An alternative introduction is the open-air Old Town Trolley Tour (USD57.95 or USD42.48 online), which takes 90 minutes, or you can hop on and off at your leisure to explore, as the trolley buses you around all the major Key West attractions, with commentary by the driver.
Hemingway & History
One of the most popular places of interest is the Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum (USD16 including a 30-minute guided tour), where you can learn about Key West’s most famous former resident, who lived out his final 10 years here in the 1930s, writing in the studio above the carriage house. A bizarre fact about the museum is that it’s home to around 50 cats, many of which have six toes!
Nearby is the Key West Lighthouse, which has been in service since 1848, where you can climb the 88 steps up to the top for lovely ocean views.
If you’re a Hemingway fan, then another spot to pay a visit to is Sloppy Joe’s, where the writer was a regular, enjoying the piña coladas and live music.
Beyond Hemingway, another historical point of interest is the Little White House (USD22.52 general admission or USD20.27 online, including a guided tour), which was used by President Harry S. Truman during the winters of his presidency (1945-1953).
Key West Food
One of the prime draws of visiting Key West is food, particularly sweet treats such as the quintessential Key lime pie, known for the “key” ingredient of the small limes that grow here – juicier and more fragrant than their common Persian counterparts. The pie is made using Key lime juice, egg yolks, sweetened condensed milk and a pie crust (or sometimes a graham cracker crust), often topped with meringue or whipped cream.
Start your dessert touring at the aptly-named Key Lime Pie Company, where you can also participate in a Key lime pie-making class (USD20 for the one-hour class, Thursdays, and Fridays at 11 am only) to make your own mini-pie.
A second big contender for the best Key lime pie is Kermit’s Key West Key Lime Shoppe, which serves not only the sought-after Key lime pie (including a gluten-free option), but also pie bars, candy, jellies, sauces, and even toiletries such as soaps, hair care, and shower gels.
Continue your Key lime pie grazing at Blue Heaven on Duval Street, a well-known and family-fun Key West foodie destination with alfresco seating, also known for its excellent brunches (try the “BLT” eggs benedict, with bacon, lobster, and tomato). In the evenings, there is sometimes live music. Other Duval Street favorites include Bad Boy Burrito and Santiago’s Bodega for Spanish-style tapas.
If you’re up early enough, then pop into Glazed Donuts (open 7 am to 1 pm, Wednesday to Sunday) for signature glazed donuts as well as exotic flavors such as Key lime or Canadian bacon, paired with excellent coffee – though be warned that the baked goods sell out very fast!
For sophisticated desserts with a “speakeasy” vibe, then pop into the intimate and boldly-named Better Than Sex. A romantic venue of just 15 tables, decadent treats include the cookie nookie pie, tongue bath truffle, and peanut butter perversion! These can be enjoyed with wines, beers, and house cocktails, which are served with chocolate and caramel around the glass rim.
Sunrises & Sunsets In Key West
The Florida Keys are famous for breathtaking sunsets, when a kaleidoscopic lightshow takes to the skies. There are a few prime locations for dusk-watching, including:
Southernmost Point is a red, black and yellow marker located at the corner of South and Whitehead, marking the southernmost point in the United States. Mostly just used as a photo opp, it can get crowded, especially around sunset, but getting there for sunrise is a alternative way to beat the crowds.
One of the best sunset spots is Mallory Square, where a nightly “Sunset Celebration” has taken place since the 1960s. There are street performers, vendors, plus an unobstructed view of the orange horizon.
Of course, the sunset can also be enjoyed unobstructed from the water, so you can book a sunset cruise, which also provides passengers with drinks and snacks.
Where to Stay in Key West
You have a wide range of accommodation options in Key West Florida. Whether you are looking to stay in a luxury resort or a budget-friendly option, most people will find it is easy to find a bed that will fit their budget. If you are looking for a unique stay then a smaller conch house or Key West Airbnb rental may be ideal.
For hotels, I always use Booking.com, as you will notice in my recommendations below. I love them as they always have the best prices on hotels. Click here to search Booking.com for the best deals.
Here are some of our favorite places to stay in Key West:
- Havana Cabana at Key West – This hotel is located 15 minutes away from Duval Street. A great escape if you want to be away from the hustle and bustle. We have stayed here twice before and love the large tropical pool. Check for rates and more details.
- Simonton Court Historic Inn -is a cute Victorian House with a tropical pool. Check rates and more details.
- Oceans Edge Key West Hotel & Marina – This hotel offers beautiful panoramic water views and six pools! Check for rates and more details.
- Southernmost Point Guest House – this guest house is located in the heart of all the action, right on Duval Street. Check for rates and more details.
- Margaritaville Key West Resort & Marina – This waterfront resort is centrally located in Old Town and is walking distance to everything. Check for rates and more details.
- The Marker Resort – we loved staying at the Marker Resort. It is tucked away from all the nightlife but close enough to all the main attractions. Check for rates and more details.
- Airbnb Key West -When I’m not staying at a hotel, I love booking our stays through Airbnb. An Airbnb can provide an authentic local experience. If you are traveling with a family, Airbnb is great as you can often get more space by renting an entire house for less money than a hotel stay. Click here to get $40 USD off your first stay.
and you can also get $15 off an experience.
There are so many different options that will fit every budget so you can enjoy Key West. Find the best option for your visit. If you love nightlife then consider staying close to Duval Street. If you want a more laid back getaway, then a stay closer to the beach or a resort with a tropical pool may be your best bet. If you are loo
More Stops On The Drive from Miami to Key West
We hope you found this Miami to Key West road trip guide helpful in planning your trip along the Overseas Highway, but of course, there is a multitude of different activities and foodie destinations to choose from en route, depending on your preferences. If you have any recommendations or suggestions to add to the list, let us know in the comments below.
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